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Bangladesh: Mourning Senator Edward Kennedy

Ted Kennedy Official Photo from public domain via Wikipedia

Ted Kennedy Official Photo – from public domain via Wikipedia

Senator Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009), the second most senior member of the US Senate, died of cancer last Tuesday. The legendary politician is being mourned in USA and across the world for his legacy of fighting for the rights of the people in trouble, be it the Bangladeshi refugees during the liberation war, Ethiopian famine victims or being a catalyst to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina termed Kennedy a real friend of Bangladesh and recalled his role in mobilizing the world opinion for Bangladesh during the liberation war. Habib Siddiqui, a Bangladeshi blogger living in the USA says:

In deep sadness, I recall the demise of this great man whose contribution to the cause of Bangladesh should never be forgotten by our posterity.

So what did Senator Kennedy do for Bangladesh? Let the bloggers speak.

Smith Barney wrote in Open Salon, a hybrid blogging platform and social network site:

After the invasion of East Pakistan (also called East Bengal, now called Bangladesh) by West Pakistani forces in the spring of 1971, some 9,000,000 refugees streamed across the border into India. The world and the United States (Nixon/Kissinger mired in Vietnam, famously “tilting” toward West Pakistan) took little note. All except the 39 year old senior senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy.

In the brutal heat and monsoon muck of August, Senator Kennedy traveled to refugee camps throughout West Bengal (the neighboring Indian state) and reported back to the Senate in an extraordinarily passionate document about the plight of the refugees in India and what he called the “reign of terror which grips East Bengal.”

He concluded: “America's heavy support of Islamabad (West Pakistan) is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal.”

Kennedy not only bore witness, he jolted the world into taking notice and aiding the refugees if not the independence fighters in East Bengal.

Unheard Voices, a Bangladeshi human rights blog republishes Senator Edward Kennedy's report to the US Senate which articulates the plights of the refugees.

Mehrab Shahriar posts some photos of the refugees including Kennedy's visit to the refugee center in 1971.

H. A. Mahmud informs [bn]:

বাংলাদেশ স্বাধীন হওয়ার পর ১৯৭২ সালে এডওয়ার্ড সদ্য স্বাধীন রাষ্ট্র বাংলাদেশে আসেন। এখানে তিনি একটি শোভাযাত্রায় অংশ নেন এবং ঢাকা বিশ্বদ্যিালয়ে ভাষণ দেন। এডওয়ার্ড কেনেডি’র স্মৃতিবিজড়িত ঐতিহাসিক বটগাছটি এখনও কালের সাক্ষী হয়ে দাঁড়িয়ে আছে ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় এলাকায়।

After the liberation of Bangladesh Edward Kennedy came to Bangladesh in early 1972. He participated in a rally and addressed a gathering of students of Dhaka University. The Banyan tree Kennedy planted in Dhaka University still stands as the reminder of his legacy.

Shada Kalo remembers Kennedy with gratitude:

Ted, you were a friend of Bangladesh. This did not get you any votes, and no one could have blamed you if you did not walk in the mud of the refugee camps in the sweltering heat of August. But you did it because it was the right thing to do. And you helped us because that was also the right thing to do.

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